Saturday, 26 May 2018

boardgaming in photos: Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse, Bonnie and Clyde, Catan Card Game

6 May 2018. Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse is the third Unlock! game I have played. This time it was a 4-player game. I asked my wife Michelle to join us this time because this particular game needs to be played in two teams. I didn't want to have solo teams, so we needed at least two players per team. I wanted a cooperative experience and not a solo puzzle solving exercise. Doctor Goorse was much harder than the previous two. The publisher rates it 3 of 3 on the difficulty scale. The other two games, which I found moderately easy, are 2's. I was surprised how tough this one turned out to be. This is a good thing. Challenging is good. We had to use hints many times because we got stuck.

This was our score. It took us more than two hours to finish this one hour game (first row, left side). We had to ask for hints 7 times (first row, right side). We revealed two incorrect cards and were penalised 6 minutes (second row). We entered wrong codes 7 times and were penalised 14 minutes (third row, right side). Our final rating was 0 stars (out of 5). If you are interested to try an Unlock! game, do NOT start here! Nevertheless, this was a fun experience, because of how difficult it was. The puzzles here are quite clever, I must say.

The story is that you have crash landed on an island belonging to a rich archaeologist. Your group is split into two during the crash landing. You need to reunite before trying to escape the island together. One team is the yellow team and uses the cards with yellow numbers and alphabets. The other is the green team. Teams may not discuss or share information, at least until they find each other.

Wed 9 May 2018 was an important day in Malaysia's history. It was election day, and this election was the first time we had a change in government since independence 61 years ago. I casted my vote early, and was home by 9am. I had the rest of the day as free time, since it was a public holiday. In the afternoon I played some games with younger daughter Chen Rui. This game here is Bonnie and Clyde, one of the games in the Mystery Rummy family. This was the first time Chen Rui play this. I hadn't played it for a long time, and needed to read the rules again.

All games in the Mystery Rummy series use a few basic gin rummy mechanisms. At the start of your turn, you always draw a card. At the end of your turn, you must discard a card. In between, you may play melds and layoffs. A meld is a set of 3 or more similar cards. After a meld has been played by anyone for a particular number, cards of that number can then be played as single or double cards. These are called layoffs. A game is played over several hands. For each hand, you play until one player plays all cards from his hand. You then score, reshuffle, and start the next hand. Once anyone reaches a certain total score, the game ends. Bonnie and Clyde refers to the famous criminal couple from the 1930's. This version of Mystery Rummy comes with a long game board consisting of 10 locations. During setup, 10 cards are placed face-down along the board. Two of them are Bonnie and Clyde. During the game, if you are able to find and catch them, they each give you 10pts.

This car is an important element in the game. It starts at the #1 location. When you play melds or layoffs, you get to move the car. To catch Bonnie or Clyde, the car needs to be located where they are, and you need to play a card matching that location number too. Throughout the game you will be manipulating the car to your advantage. In addition to helping you catch the criminals, when you play cards which match the car location, they score double points. These are the key elements in Bonnie and Clyde which differ from other games in the family.

The cards played horizontally are those which will score double. This is the convention used to indicate cards which are played when the car is at the matching locations. It is usually better to play melds and layoffs when the car position is right, but it's not always easy to do. Sometimes you hold on to cards waiting for the car to move to the right locations. Sometimes you can't risk the wait, lest your opponent suddenly plays all cards and ends the hand. Sometimes you play some cards without getting double points to move the car to the right location to allow you to play other cards to score double points. Finding Bonnie and Clyde is tricky. When you to play a meld or layoff, you get to peek at the face-down card at the location matching the meld or layoff. This helps you find them. However you need to match the car location to actually catch them.

This is the Catan Card Game. It is the first edition, which is quite old. The newer edition is called Rivals of Catan. Normally when a successful boardgame gets a card version treatment, the card game version is simpler. In the case of The Settlers of Catan, its card game version is more complex. Also, it is a 2-player-only affair. It has some elements where the equivalents are in the Cities and Knights expansion of the boardgame and not the base game.

Older daughter Shee Yun is usually not interested to play boardgames, and only younger daughter Chen Rui is more willing to humour me. So I looked for a 2-player game, and decided on this. According to my records, the previous time I played this was 10 years ago!

This is the starting setup. Those cards in the middle are the draw decks. The two players each have their own areas, called principalities. You start with two towns and a road connecting them, and six production terrains surrounding them. Your objective is to reach 12 victory points. Towns are 1VP each. If you upgrade a town to a city, it is then worth 2VP. Some buildings you can construct in your towns and cities are worth VP. If you are militarily or economically stronger than your opponent, you get to control the military token and the economic token respectively. These are worth 1VP each.

Your principality looks like this at the beginning. That road card in the centre contains useful reference information. On both of the town cards at the two ends of the road, you can see a flag icon at the bottom right. These icons are the victory points. As for the six terrain cards, pay attention to the upper edge only. The cards are oriented this way specifically to indicate there is one resource at each terrain card. Whenever a terrain card produces, you rotate it counter-clockwise, so that the upper edge will show one more resource. When you spend resources, you rotate the terrain card clockwise. A terrain card can store at most three resources. Once it has three, it is full and it can't produce more.

Catan Card Game is a development game. You collect resources, then spend them to build more things, which help you collect more resources, to build more others things, and eventually collect enough victory points to win. It feels good because you are progressing, you are collecting stuff, you have a purpose, you have a plan to execute. In this photo I had expanded my principality from the original two towns to two cities and two towns. I now had 10 terrain cards compared to the original 6. During the game I told Chen Rui there were only 5 new towns that could be built, and players needed to fight for them. Usually one would get three and the other would have only two. Naturally whoever had the third new town would enjoy an advantage. It meant two extra terrain cards and thus more production. I was surprised that Chen Rui managed to beat me to it. I was so close. Unfortunately, in other areas of development, she fell far behind. She had a few strong knight cards, which were expensive to play. Quite a few times when she had accumulated many resources, the brigand event was rolled and she lost all her ore and sheep. Those were major setbacks. I played some garrison cards to protect my resources and I rarely fell victim to the brigands. As I developed more, my progress only accelerated compared to hers, and I eventually won with a big margin.

The two square wooden blocks are the tokens for military dominance and economic dominance respectively. I controlled both of them.

Despite being a card game, the luck of the draw in Catan Card Game is low. There are five draw decks in the game. When you need to draw a card, you may spend two resources to look through one entire deck to pick the one card you want. When you do this, it means you get to see every card in the deck. You will know whether there are other cards that suit your strategy which you will want to cherry-pick again later.

Playing this again after ten years felt great. It has a same enjoyable tempo like The Settlers of Catan. Every turn dice are rolled, and both players get to produce stuff, not just the active player. You keep producing until you have enough resources to build something. I have the expansion to this game, which contains 5 modules. If Chen Rui is still interested to play, there is plenty more we can explore.

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